Frustration increases with nursing home restrictions

Lucy Freeman holds bag of home-cooked food she was not allowed to deliver to the nursing home where her son is a resident.

As the coronavirus pandemic drags on, so does the frustration — particularly among people unable to visit relatives in nursing homes.

Lucy Freeman of Osyka said she tried to deliver containers of home-cooked food to her son at McComb Nursing and Rehab on Tuesday and was turned away.

Freeman, whose son Dennis, 42, is in the nursing home because of a stroke, had cooked dishes, sealed them in glass and plastic containers and put them in a plastic grocery bag.

“When I got to the door with food freshly prepared at my home and sealed in plastic, I can’t take it in,” she said, adding a nursing home official cited Centers for Disease Control regulations.

Freeman said she’s frustrated because she can order food, clothes and other items from Amazon and have them delivered to her son with no problem. Her husband Randy even put some snacks in an Amazon box and was able to deliver them to the nursing home.

“Because this is not mailed, they can’t have it,” Freeman said.

“What they’re doing does not make any sense,” she said. “If I got a (Amazon) Prime box, put that stuff in there, put tape on it, they’d take it.”

Freeman also complained that nursing home staff won’t wheel her son outside for a visit, even if they practice social distancing.

“I witnessed one of their workers bring two people in from outside,” Freeman said,

“They won’t roll Dennis out to visit, but they rolled him out for a parade with an aide standing beside him. I even offered to stay six feet away from him.”

The nursing home will also send staff to buy items at Wal-Mart and return to the nursing home, potentially spreading the virus, Freeman said.

Freeman said, other than COVID-19 restrictions, the nursing home has been good to her son.

“We’ve had no beef with the nursing home and how they take care of him,” she said. “They take good care of him. It’s this COVID stuff.”

Nursing home executive director Rhonda Smith said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services prohibits visitation except in compassionate care situations, such as a terminal resident approaching the end of life.  

“We really wish our residents could visit with their families, but we are following CMS guidance,” Smith said.   

Smith said nursing home residents have the right to receive mail, including Amazon boxes.

“Although these two rules may seem inconsistent, McComb (nursing home) is required to follow CMS regulations pertaining to resident rights and has diligently followed all CMS and the state health department recommendations pertaining to COVID-19 to protect the health and welfare of our residents and staff,” Smith said in an email.  

Regarding outdoor visits, Smith said she hopes to make those available soon.

“We have not yet implemented outdoor visitation, but plan on doing so just as soon as it is deemed to be safe for our residents,” she said. “Unfortunately, Pike County is currently experiencing a high positivity rate — reported to be 13.5% this week. Because the county’s positivity rate is greater than 10%, we are taking additional precautions which include testing all employees twice each week. Be assured, we will move to outdoor visitation just as soon as we can safely do so.”  

Smith said the nursing home enacted restrictions even before it was required to, in order to limit the spread of the virus.

“While regrettable that family members do not have free access to visit their loved ones at McComb, it was a measure that had to be taken,” she said.

“McComb’s staff loves their residents, each other and the community that they serve,” she said. “We are deeply appreciative of the support from the Pike County community, and we look forward to a solution to help combat this terrible disease so that our residents can be reunited with their families.”

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